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>> guest: the founding fathers are part of the world of myths in america, and we all claim them for a lot of different political points. i think in the current historical moment the right thing has done to things i find disturbing. one is they collectivized the founding fathers, a collective single endty, and they contributed a whole lot of things people believed to the
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collective hive and used to try to shut it down and saying this is what our founders believe, certain points are ill legit mid-and cannot be entertained, and have used that founding myth, and it's very predictable people are going to use whatever is rhetorically powerful to back their arguments, but the collectivization of the mind of america's founding fathers is particularly dangerous because, as i say so often in the book, they were not a collective unit, and presenting them as such tends to dramatically oversimply identify the politics of the founding generation. then it comes to be used as a big battering ram to beat people over the head with in ways i think are historically incorrect and rhetorically unsound. >> host: who in america's right wing are we talking about?
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sunny started with glen beck. i determined i was going to write this book about 15 minutes after i ran into glen beck's translation of the federalist papers, the original argument, and it was in our supermarket, our krogers, in wichita, and i went around and said to people, can you believe this? glen beck has translated the federalist papers? and almost everybody said, and what's wrong with that. i said, well, they're in english. they don't need to be translated. people didn't understand why i was so upset about this. this really kind of ticked me off. so that was the first book i read, was the glen beck's translation of i think 33, 34 of the federalist papers with a lot of commentary, and also recent biography of george washington
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and his half reproduction, half commentary on thomas payne's common sense. that's how i started the project, reading those books. i read sean hannity, david barton, the jefferson lies was his most recent book. and a variety of similar works, but those -- and then there were a number of works by politicians i read, and this is always dangerous because politicians usually don't write their own books, but i figure they ought to at least be willing to agree what's in them. so i read several recent books by newt gingrich on the judiciary. mike lee, rick perry, governor of texas, has a fairly recent book called "fed up." and it's a state's rights manifesto. so that collectively, in of the
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politicians on the far right, and then that conservative entertainment complex who became the foundation -- i probably read 30 or 40 books from that wide swath of opinion. >> host: would you expect anything more from propaganda political leaders? is this something we might expect when something as complicate as a historical event over 200 years ago is written about and talked about by people who are up for election and trying to sell books? is this an inevitable outgrowth of our culture? >> guest: to a large extent, yes, the discourse has not changed much over the last 200 years. this kind of very propagandaistic use of people and -- so, yes, i do think that
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is part of the genre. and i think that part of the genre needs to be people like me writing correctives and saying, this is -- if this is where groating your history, is a wrong, or if not wrong, it's at least much more complicated than it's being made out to be. >> let me talk about this point about it being more complicated. let's say they had very good copy editors who went back and said, instead of the founders said x, say said many hoff the founders said something, or most of the founderes, it was a common opinion at the time. would that simple kind of change of phrasing be enough to satisfy you or is there a deeper concern? no i think that would totally eliminate the utility of what i call the founder's dying monster. >> host: a wonderful metaphor. >> guest: when i first decided to do this i was going to write
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a blog, and it was first attempt to use photo shop, tike a picture of george washington, benjamin franklin and john adams and stuck them together and that was the founder monster, the great collective founding fathers opinion, and the rhetorical effectiveness of the big stick depends on that unanimity of point. if you say some founders believed x, some founders believed y, and here barack obama is talking about y and not x. that's not a stick. that's just saying that something is entering a long historical conversation. when you say the founding fathers believed x and barack obama believes y, that becomes the stick. so, i think that at a very fundamental level, the kind of discourse i'm responding to can't draw that distinction between the founders believed and most founders believed,
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because -- or many founders, or some founders believed, because that historically incoherent unanimity of opinion is fundamental to the way the discourse is being used. >> host: is there any hope for prop begannists to have a meaningful, constructive conversation about the founding fathers? >> i think that is at odd with what most propagandaist are trying to do. >> host: let me ask you about the founding fathers, aside -- was this a special group of people? maybe they've been treated wrong by the people you talk about in your book but is this a group of people worthy of special attention even now in 2012? >> guest: i think so. these are remarkable people who cared deeply about their country and cared deeply about ideas. they were also a slog, very often hypocritical, very often
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controversial group of people, but in their own ways, they cared deeply about the country they were creating and what they were doing. and i think had a lot of wisdom. i don't think more than anybody else who has ever lived, i think there have been in the historical periods in america and other places, a lot of very wise people that we ought to pay attention to. i do think the founding fathers individually were people who, yes, thought a lot about what it meant to live in a representative democracy, at a time in the world where very few people had given a lot of thought to that. >> host: we sometimes now take for granted what a remarkable moment that time was. there was no stable democracy in world history before that. there will city states that didn't last. this was a democracy that was created with the constitutional that was voted on across the country, without people being murdered for what they voted on
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the constitution. so what is it about them that was so special? one word you you a lot is compromise. tell me about their ability to compromise. >> guest: i think you can't build a representative democracy across a very large population and very large land area without compromising a lot. and i think that -- in our present discourse, we like to pretend that the constitution and a lot of the nation-building enterprises of the founding era, were done by consensus. people getting together and agreeing. which i think is absolutely nowhere near the truth. you have people who wanted to accomplish something remarkable. the creation of the constitution was something absolutely remarkable for its time. the creation of a representative democracy across 13 large land areas, that had different
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economies, different modes of production, different religious values, different histories, different outlooks on things, when they came together, i think that the 55 people who gathered in philadelphia had most of them -- not all of them -- most of them had an imperative that they were going to create something like a representative democracy or republic out of all of these different elements. and they had to give up almost everything but that. they came with a whole lot of different ideas about what they were going to do, and nobody came away with exactly what they wanted. most people didn't come away with anything close to what they wanted, except that very remarkable thing. >> host: now, these are very polarized time, the congress in the 1790s is as polar rises or more as today, if you note in your book, if we think the media is polar rised today, we haven't
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seen anything like then. so how were they able to compromise then, in similarly polarized times it's hard to compromise. >> guest: they didn't like it anymore than we do. somebody said -- never been able to track this quote down, maybe you know who said it. said, politics is compromised, everything else is theater. and i think we're looking at a lot of theater right now, but i think that the compromises are going to happen, too. >> host: what do we do to create the sort of environment now that promotes compromise? is it just something that happens when a nation is created, not when a nation is continued? >> guest: i think there have been a lot of times in our history, i think the constitution is a good dish call it in the book an engine of compromise. it propels us towards compromise, and one way is by making it easy to shut the whole thing down. it takes very little to bring government to a grinding halt.
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a couple of people in congress can do it. a president can do it. a few people on the supreme court can do it. it's much easier to keep things from happening than to make things happen, and what drives compromise is the need to do something. the need to move fur. i think that we have -- we always going to have a lot of political theater, and i love that. political -- i was an english major with a background in theater, and so i love the theatrical element of our politics. i think it's fascinating. i think it's dramatic, comic, tragic, a wonderful bit of literature. >> host: in the end, the founding generation had a country to create. and they were willing to give up almost everything but that. we've got problems to solve, and i note in the book, and i believe right now the national
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debt is probably our generation's problem to solve. and it's a big problem. and it's one where the whole lot of different values on the line, different interests on the line. i believe we will compromise on that because we have to. because the alternative is just grinding to a halt. but there's always -- every compromise in the constitutional convention, every compromise of the founding generation, was certainly attended by its fair share of very overdramatic theater, and it's no different today. >> host: now, we talk about the successes, some of the historically unprecedented things that the founders did but there were also many things about the ways they created the constitution that don't look so good from where we sit today. 65 white men, aristocratic men, very narrow brown. so given these flaws with how the constitution was credit.
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are there lessons that translate to today? i. >> guest: i think so. we have to realize it was a great leap forward. it was not a great leap to where we are now. it was great leap forward from where most of the world was then in allowing a much larger percentage of the population to be involved in the political process than had been involved almost anywhere else in the world up to that point. from our perspective, it might not even look like much of a leap. from our perspective, a whole lot of people were excluded and much of the last 230 years has been working out the idealism of the american revolution in a way that brings the participation in the political process far past where the founders imagined it. >> host: given how different things are today, too, how do we go about, as writers, political figures, judges, law
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professors -- how do we go about translating the prims principlef the 18th century in the 20th 20th century. the have the free speech, we have the internet. so we talk about this as an ongoing process, but look how different the world is today. how do we translate the wonderful, hit cloy unprecedented as you say insights of the 18th century to the very different world over the 21st century. >> guest: it's not easy. that's a very difficult taskment one thing i object to with so much of the propaganda that i was responding to, was that it made it sound very easy. well, what we need to do is this. we need to go back to what the founders intended. which is just problematic on a whole lot of different levels. i think that we will make a lot of mistakes if we try to go back to the constitution and read the mines of the people who wrote it.
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because they -- i don't believe they set down intending to create a checklist of things we need to do. i think they created a political process that is still a very dynamic political process. and i -- when i have lectured about the back, -- book, i announce up front if anybody asks he what the founding fathers think about x, i tell them unless the question is, should the 13 colonies be governed by the british, then then only answer i'm going to give you is use the process we gave you and figure it out for yourself. >> host: let's get more specific about ways in which you are frustrated with how these propagandaist are talking about these issues, some of the issues in the book. let's first talk about religion. what was the vision of religion and the american constitutional order that was discussed at the time of the founding and how
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simply identified and used by the right wing? >> guest: it depends on who you asked. there war founding fathers who were very religious. founders who believed that this was going to be a christian nation. and that we needed the inspiration of god and the bible in our politics itch think patrick henry is a good example of a very religious founding father. and that was one of the positions of the founding era. there were founding fathers who were not christian. they were unitarians. some who were deists who believed religion was a good way to control the masses. they didn't particularly care much for church but thought it was nice thing, and they perhaps -- george washington and john adams fall into that category -- they expressed a lot
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of religious doubts in their own writing but did not try to slow it down in the public sphere. then there's jefferson and madison, who went to a very lengthy debate in virginia about the religious freedom act in virginia, and who really saw -- jefferson was a deist, or unitarian and would not have been considered a christian. madison, i have no idea. i know what he thought about religious liberty. i have no idea what he thought personally. but it was believed that religion -- best for religion and best for the civil society if religion were considered something prior to the social contract, and, therefore north covered by the social contract. you entered into your religious beliefs with your god, your deity, if you under him or her to be, and the state neither helped nor hindered, and i think that view is more in line with how the constitution ended up. i think that the supreme court
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has been moving us towards that view, but by no means in a straight line. >> host: this is a good example of the problems you're talking about before in finding collective intention. you outline what several of the different founders thought. many of them seemed completely into -- what other founds. how do you find the common ground? collective bodies have conflicting intentions. different people voted for the healthcare law for different peoples. different people vote for immigration reform for different reasons but there's still a law that gets the majority. there's a very complicated picture and an interesting one you're painting of religion and the founding fathers. how do we fine what the common ground is that led them to agree on this first amendment on religion? >> guest: i think you look at the debates surrounding it. you look at the virginia debates.
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you look at what people said. but then those really aren't -- they don't really govern interpretation. the constitution isn't the virginia statute on religious freedom or the massachusetts constitution. the constitution is its own thing. it says very little about religion. what it does say in the first amendment, i think, we have -- as you well know, enormous body of precedent in literature on the preexercise clause and on the establishment clause, but i think that there is good reason to read that part of the constitution, that part of the first amendment in light of the jeffersonon, madisonian position that religious is exemption -- madison says exempt from the cog any sense of the state. a noncognizant of religious.
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religious circulates in the free market of ideas. government doesn't interfere with it, doesn't do anything to establish it. >> host: i think we have drawn those lines reasonably successful here. though there are a lot of people who believe otherwise. as there were in the founding generation, patrick henry, vehemently opposed the jeffersonian, madisonian idea on religion. i believe it has led to america being a very religiously dynamic country. >> host: now, a good example of the founders phenomenon. how have the right wing and political figures in your book -- how have they treated what the founding fathers had to say about religion? what do they think the founders said and what that means for our debates today? >> guest: the king here is david
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barton, who wrote a book called "original intent." which is about a 500 page collection of citations. >> host: del us what those are. >> guest: that comes from biblical interpretation, largely. akon textualized paragraphs or sentences that supposedly prove something. they're almost always given without context. so, people say that thomas jefferson was a deist, but here's this quotation in which he talks about jesus christ. thus we see that this is true and what people say is a lieful the founders wrote an enormous amount. george washington's papers at the university of virginia, they're now in volume 67 of a project 90 volumes and he wasn't a writer. those are letters. alexander hamilton, james mat disson, thomas jefferson, spent
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hours every day writing letters. so we have rooms full of writings from these people, and if you just cherry picked a citation here and there, you can prove that they were christians or deists or unitarians or baked potatoes or just about anything. because they said so much. so proof tech citation is a quotation offered with very little cop text, and in bulb lick cal discussions they're used to prove what god is thinking in our discussions of the founders, once you collectivize the founders, opposite you create the founders, the hive mind, then you can apply any sentence that any one of them ever spoke as if it were the opinion of the entire collective, and that is what happened. that is what a lot of people today do, and they're making an enormous amount of money doing
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it. they take -- david barton, the original intend the one i focus on the most here, and in that book you have thousands of quotations by hundreds of people listed as founding fathers, about half of whom were not supporters of the constitution. samuel adams and john hancock and patrick henry and george mason, people who were antifederalist leaders, who are then taken to be something like a collective mentality and then used to interpret the constitution that most of them didn't support. >> host: what does the founder's sign have to say about religion? what is used to argue in contemporary debates about the government and religion? sunny the founders on the right says the founding fathers were christians. they were all christians. they believed they didn't want to particularly denomination of president tess standism to be the controlling religion of the united states, but certainly they meant for a veer
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evangelical, biblical world in our politics, and they find plenty of evidence to prove that. the fouledders on the left says that all of the founding fathers didn't believe much in guy and were enlightened thinkers, and they thought that religion had no place in our society. and that's just inaccurate, and those are competing founders. those are competing collectivizations of the founding generation. and they're equally inaccurate, i think. >> host: so let's talk about taxes. this might be the only become publishedded in tw 2011 that talks about grover nord nordquist. what is the history, tell us from the 18th century and how has the right wing used that history today? >> americans never liked taxes. they didn't like taxes without
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representationment they didn't like taxation with representation. they revolted a few times, the whiskey rebellion. there was quite a bit of antitax sentiment in america. that said, the constitution is virtually unlimited in its taxing power it gives to the government, and hamilton wrote about that need to collect taxes, and in there -- a number of places he says, i think very straightforward, doesn't make it into the glen beck version, these essays -- but says that it's politically difficult to vote to raise taxes and always going to be politically different to vote to raise tacks. you do not ever want to do anything to add a structural difficulty by putting something in the constitution to limit the ability to raise taxes because
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you can't foresee the future. that it is dramatically irresponsible to do something like, oh, i don't know, take a pledge saying you will never in your life as a legislator vote continue crease taxes. >> host: grover nordquist. >> guest: that is dramatically, diametrically opposed to what was written in the federalist papers. i think among the founding generation, jefferson was the greatest example of the low tax, doesn't want to raise taxes, crowd, and he was only very tentatively supportive of the whiskey tax, the disstilled spirits tax, and jefferson was, i think, largely sympathetic to the protesters, and jefferson said a lot of things that modern
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day tax protesters can seize on. jefferson was an out liar. washington did nod support the whys city rebellion. he participated in the military effort to put it down. hamilton believed -- and on that's i very much agree with hamilton -- that it's always going to be a big debate and you need to have that debate. you always need to have that debate. but you don't hobble yourself before hand with additional structural difficulties because it could be very important in the future to have a source of revenue. >> host: we'll take our halfway break now and when we come back i want to talk about specific issues and then we'll talk about the politics behind it, and then the reasons that led you to write at the book. we'll be back in a little bit. >> guest: excellent. thank you.
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>> host: welcome back, michael austin. >> guest: thank you. >> host: let's talk more about the issues your book talks and the what the founders had to say, their different opinions on these issues, and then what the right wing commentators are saying. we talked about religion and taxes. let's talk about foreign policy. what did the founders you talk about inner book have to say about america's role in the world? >> guest: i think that, again, this was matter of great dispute. there was one major foreign policy issue in the washington administration and that was the war between france and england and what they were going to do about it. and even then you had two very distinctive positions. hamilton was roughly pro british, jefferson was ruthly
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from french, and this led to a huge split between the two men. the national bank issue was controversial but this is how the parties, the federalists and the republicans aligned, whether they were going to favor britain or france in that war that would eventually produce napoleon...
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to allow americans to account said american ships and let them participate in some ways in the left-handed jefferson did this because he thought we went to france for their help and resolution and the french were fighting for democracy and what really evolves them are two positions, a realistic position of america's interests, this is
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what we need to do, and the position of the jeffersonian some in the world and as american foreign policy has developed, those positions have been predominant. we need to look cold and hard at our own interests which most states do but there's always been this element of we've got to go out and make the world safe for democracy. we've got to fight with the good guys. and i think that our situation is completely different now. we have an army, we have the navy, but economy. we are in a very different situation than the founders ever were or ever could have imagined. but we still have those inclination's. are we involved in foreign policy to protect our interests, are we involved in policy to project ideologies into the world?
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>> host: and of course it is a very different time in america's place in the world pity we are not an indispensable nation we are very much at threat 25 years after the creation and the constitution not far from here where we are taking the interview this is a country very much at risk. how do the people that you write about contemporary authors, how do they translate or try to translate what the frankenstein sent to contemporary debates about foreign policy, iraq, afghanistan? >> guest: a lot of them quote from washington's farewell address and saying you shouldn't be involved in the alliance's. there tends to be a very nativist threat going forward through those book. >> host: tell us more about that what you mean by nativist? >> guest: to let the world of light and we just need to kind of pull back and take care of ourselves.
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so, i think that's among the contemporary thought conservative writers i don't get them the way that i do with domestic issues. some of them are pro intervention. we need to go explore the democracy. a lot of them are much more we just need to pull back, get out of the war and take care of ourselves and stop spending money around the world. >> host: as a professor of constitutional law i've seen the most probably in the last few years on states' rights, what we might call federalism and leftist power on sunday morning talk shows and supreme court decisions and the health care case so what did the founders have to say about the relative role of the federal government and the state government?
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>> guest: everything we have to say about it. they were misled and conflict as we were. this is the major issue in the 1800 e. election, a major issue in the 1928 election, andrew jackson versus john quincy adams. this question of are we won nation, are we a bunch of states? this is what divided the federalists and antifederalists in supporting the constitution. it's what divided them into the republicans and the founding era and the whigs in to the republicans and democrats in the next generation. we have always had some people who see the united states primarily as a group of states and other people who see it as a union has administrative districts within that union and the idea of the founders had a coherent conditional of them felt the same thing i think
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requires you to pretend that they didn't have elections back then because that's a very elections were about to read different parties wanted different things. and generally, the southerners now where more confederated. the northerners saw this as a nation. hamilton very much. hamilton was almost a monarchist i think that there was with all of the founders there was a strong belief. when i read texas is trying to secede from the union because they are mad about some recent political event that strikes me as part of it the tragic and comic sort of way. the founding generation -- there are a lot of this unions that they are not supporters of the
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constitution. >> host: what do they have to say, what is the collectivized version for the founding fathers had to say about federalism? >> guest: federalism is hard to define because it shifted throughout the founding generation. it originally meant supporter of the articles of confederation and then madison and hamilton pulled one of the greatest of all time by calling their nationalist work of the constitution the federalist papers. what we mean by federalism is a word that signifies some relationship between constituent elements and the national government. what that relationship is isn't anywhere near clear the founding generation. i think that for rick perry and mark sullivan and equine evac almost everybody in that general cadre believes the founding fathers believed that states or
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more amenable to the democracy than the federal government. there were more likely to produce tierney which is exactly the opposite of what madison believed at least in the federalist intent. it is the estate's that have the real potential to produce a majoritarian tyranny and it's the national government that can counteract that because it is large enough to balance the various regional majorities that could otherwise become pressing >> host: you should be waiting by your phone for a call after our discussion. but certainly there is no issue that has received more attention from the script and federalism but as you indicate, the words federalism mentioned in the constitution the words are not there. these are concept is in the air of there are several specific substantial additions the
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general concept. i want to turn now to why the founding fathers, why now, why the right wing? this is a very puzzling topic for me. you mentioned in the book that warren harding, davis mentions the phrase founding fathers but republicans don't use it as a major basis of attack were against the new deal or in the 1950's, john marshall harlan, one of my colleagues to this study showing original was on, the founding fathers john roberts in 2005 has asked 50 times more. our president and vice president and former professors don't talk about what the founding fathers fought at least as much as this group does so why have the contender they conservatives who grabbed on to this as such a basis for political recourse? why them, why this and why now?
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>> guest: i think because of its rhetorical power. the founding ethos is always going to be invoked for the rhetorical legitimacy. i think that there is a lot of people that don't have a good understanding of the founding generation. i discovered this the hard way when i was writing the book i asked my 14 year old son if he could name to founding fathers and he told me of the benjamin franklin and chuck norris. >> guest: we have a high level of understanding and makes it easy to manipulate and then there's a search everyone agrees the vast majority of americans want to be aligned with the founders and don't know it means to be in line with the founders and so they're very susceptible
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in a plane and easy to understand word what the founders meant which turns out to be exactly what the people saying this what the boundaries to mean why isn't obama stumping for the health care law in the election campaign saying i say all of these people would have wanted the health care law. they would have wanted the financial reform. >> guest: that is a good question and i don't know the answer. there is as much in the riding of the founders to support what contemporary liberals believed as of contemporary conservatives believe coming in life and both groups could draw equally from the founders. both liberals have tended to downgrade the importance of the founding generation. largely because of its connection to slavery. its connection to the white male privilege, and i think that is made it harder for liberals with some of the constituencies to
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invoke these aristocratic white men as what kenneth burke would call dodd terms -- god terms than the conservative. >> host: do you think part of this has a basis in kind of the more religious nature of political arguments and political constituencies? >> guest: most of the people adopting this towards the founders are concluding that with the religious beliefs, and it comes out that there are these ultimate authorities for god and the founders, church and state, and they occupy a very similar rhetorical position in the right wing discourse. and i do want to say at some length in this book to talk about the difference between the
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french conservative element in the mainstream conservatism which i think is a very respectable philosophy and one that i agree with in many ways and places. so why don't want to paint all conservatives with this brush. i think it is a subset right now of the far-right that calls itself the constitutionalist movement that sees great rhetorical power in the constitution and quite frankly some of the founders thought exactly the way they do and some of them didn't want to read >> host: i want to come down to the difference between what you call french conservatives and mainstream conservatives about this interplay between of religious arguments and constitutional arguments since you have written and blog in the book, talk about religious and
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biblical type arguments. what similarities do you see beyond references to an ultimate authority between kind of direction of the evangelical christianity, and perhaps the sort of arguments that you reference in the book? >> guest: this takes me back to my actual -- i spent my career writing about people maldon bunyan and richardson, and bunion especially was a great one for making religious arguments and his waving at and this is very common in the system today he took the bible and divided it into 31,000 pretexts and combined them how he felt like, paid no attention to the context whatsoever. here is this person current events and proverbs and you put this all together and perform a chain of arguments and that is
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of the people in writing about have done with the much more voluminous writings of the founding fathers. they just reduce it to so many pretexts and then they've been able to provide them in a number of ways and similar too in that the bible doesn't have a single author. it has a number of authors, but sort of a single mind is with seen as approved by god and so whichever source has that ultimate intent, that sort of homogenous intent and a lot of people's minds. and i think that exact same thing has happened with writings of the founders. >> host: by virtue of the phrase, the situations we are talking about an event long ago
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and is because of lawgivers and others to cause of the high-powered given but certainly that is a written word that comes out. >> guest: one where text is considered dramatically important than context. i think that many people today are concerned with what occurred in the end was or why leviticus was written work what was happening in deuteronomy because the text is what is important and i think that is very much the case in the right things about the founders. you'll see something john adams wrote in a letter in 1812 right next to something he wrote in a political pamphlet in 1778 and you'll see these merge together as if they form a single paragraph and not even john adams. you can see something john adams said in 1912 and something benjamin franklin said in 1750. put them together, you form just
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like you what to biblical texts of the single argument. >> host: is there a similar attitude between eletes and how modern eletes mabey have the struggle? >> guest: there is a lot of anger, people like you and me, people who start the plan and precious truths of the founders to make them so less than, and whether it's talking about the sites any time a liberal mentions that very strong push back or the disagreements between them. we don't want our mythic figures to be disagreeing with each
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other all the time. this area, there is a sense that academics -- academics are very delegitimized in this right. just because somebody has spent his or her life reading the primary text doesn't give them special insight. >> host: it could be the bible or the constitution's. there is a certain space impulse behind this that we don't need eletes telling us what it means. so it is somewhat restored. >> guest: in milan andrew jackson for that. [laughter] >> host: this is, your book does a wonderful job highlighting is there wasn't a funding, there were many one founding speed it's changing and we can't forget one particular moment to understand how the country works. so let's say that a liberal publisher or a liberal political activists calls you up and says we read your book and we agree with everything you said. we are tired of this being the
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province of the right wing. second of the cultural critic and political critics that you are in this book will that be a good thing? no, because the last thing we need is a group of liberals being as distorting and simplistic about the founding fathers as the conservatives apparently are being. and i think it's for a possible. i think you could have -- you could have a movement on the left that is just as bad. they can do the same sort of things during an event ruling non-sense. i would be happy if liberals read this and were offended by some of the things that i said. iraq hope that there is enough in there to and some liberals. the far right to discourse is much, much more abusive to the
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funding history, but i think. when what has been passed through the left is just of simplistic. so no, i don't just want to say here is a bunch of so we can watch them fight like fighting robots or something. i don't know. what's amazing is how interesting these men are when you actually read about them and treat them as individuals. they are so much more interesting than the collectivized mifsud. and rather than trying to create a checklist of approved opinions if we look at how they struggled, how they compromised, but they brought to the table, can the four this nation.
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it's an ideological blinders. >> host: i guess is this humanly possible like no matter how hard we try we all see things through our own objectives. is it through the founding fathers possible. i think that hopefully we can -- and there are so many wonderful books right now. i was in barnes and noble last night coming in from kansas i passed three barnes and noble on my way here and i was looking at the great books being written now about the founding generation. just so people are doing phenomenally good work, and they are in the bookstores and it's available and a lot of people are reading them to read a lot
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of people are discovering how awesome this period could be. i think that they're still lives on the far right there is a desire to construct. there are a whole lot of a great information. the only thing that's more available than it's ever been are the primary sources. you just need a phone to access everything that any founder avert. in the complete works of all of friars you. so, the information has never and more available. >> host: let me go back to something you mentioned before. what's the difference between the founding fathers not
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everybody because the mainstream conservative, but justice scalia. what's the difference between how justice scalia treats the founding fathers and when it back. he is not an intentional stand he said in 1987 of interpretation it was a pretty good book. and in this book he says you can look for a generalized intent, but you can't try to read the mind of the people there were the document and ultimately, their intentions don't matter because they didn't ratify the document. they collectively author and its undemocratic to try to derive
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their intent unless it is somehow in the text as an interpretive guide to the document. so, i think that -- >> host: this is been a big change but in looking at what the founding fathers thought, a lot of people with lawyers and law professors to call and talk about our original public understanding. what the devotee of them think? >> guest: i think that is strategy to say what will these words have meant? it's a completely illegitimate strategy to stay what did john adams right in his journal with the keynote coming up.
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one of the things how we've spoken on this with some quotations the constitution does what? most people called realize. so yes, i think you look at the intent that's going to you don't try to read the minds of those around the world. it could be set in completely different contexts. the supremacy clause is the statement that the constitution trumps the state law and this
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was originally madison wanted the veto and oftentimes during the convention they promised a federal veto he went to the state law and didn't want. she proposed the supremacy clause more or less as it stands now except he kicked out the state constitutions. he did this as a trick. he was hoping to get everyone to write into the constitution that federal law trent state law but not be so that she could later argued that state constitutions trump federal law to read the committee on the detail claimed that up and did put in there that the federal law trent the
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state constitutions, but that raises the question of original intent, who is intent is original. is it madison who wanted a much stronger federal veto whose intent was to receive the other delegates who wanted them to shut up and get to work? exactly who is intent do you put in because nobody came to the constitutional convention thinking i want a supremacy clause. that is nobody's intent to be that they are going to merge all of the compromise process, and if you look at everyone intended something else. >> host: of course we have similar problems trying to collect the intention of what somebody in north carolina was thinking compared to what somebody in new york. it was certainly serve very different enterprises. >> guest: that is a way of reading the constitution that comes from life, because also.
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it was a great interest when we wrote paradise lost. it's no interest to me but john adams intended when he didn't write the constitution. i mean, it's because when we read the book we are sort of hard wired to want to think what does it mean, and that's not a very good way to look at a document that was created by 55 people in an intense compromise jonathan negotiating session, and that doesn't have a lot of intent. nobody just translated their intent into words the way that we help milken did. >> host: thank you for a very wonderful conversation. you've left us with some interesting lessons and things for us to talk about. good luck with your book. >> guest: thank you very much and for doing the interview. >> host: my pleasure.
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>> that was "after words" of which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policy makers, legislators and others familiar with the material. "after words" errors every weekend on booktv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. on sunday and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" online. qtr and click on the "after words" in the booktv series and topics list on the upper right side of the page. here's a look at some here's a look at some upcoming book fairs and festivals happening around the country.

Book TV After Words
CSPAN January 14, 2013 12:00am-1:00am EST

Michael Austin Education. (2013) 'That's Not What They Meant! Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing.'

TOPIC FREQUENCY America 9, Jefferson 7, Washington 7, John Adams 7, Glen Beck 5, Virginia 5, Us 5, Hamilton 4, David Barton 3, Patrick Henry 3, Benjamin Franklin 2, France 2, Thomas Jefferson 2, Andrew Jackson 2, United States 2, Iraq 2, Rick Perry 2, John Roberts 1, Harlan 1, Obama 1
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